By Jeff Gilbert, CBS Detroit
DETROIT (WWJ) – GM CEO Dan Akerson says we’re coming close to the day when a woman will be the chief executive at one of America’s major carmakers.
“Note that the Detroit three are all run by non-car guys. Someday, there will be a Detroit Three that’s run by a car gal.”
Akerson making the comments at a lunch, sponsored by Inforum, that was part of the first-ever Michigan Auto Summit. He said women can compete, and “compete vigorously” in the competitive automotive industry.
“I don’t know when,” Akerson told reporters. “But I think there are an unbelievable number of talented women in automotive, certainly at General Motors. Just through the performance and hard work, it’s inevitable. It will come to pass.”
There’s been much speculation that GM’s product development chief Mary Barra could be in line to replace Akerson when he retires. The GM CEO wouldn’t discuss that when he was asked if she was one of the “talented women” that he was referring to.
Akerson said that while there’s more consciousness on race and gender, it’s still important to hire the hardest working most dedicated people. But he also said that “western, white men don’t have all the answers.”
Akerson said it’s important for companies like General Motors to reach out to people who have a different perspective, and when you bring those people into the company, they have to see that they can grow and develop.
“I don’t think we’re gonna be able to draw the best talent, unless they see that this is a company that is inclusive.”
The first Michigan Auto Summit is an effort by the Detroit Regional Chamber to promote Michigan as the center of the auto industry. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder saying that the state has too often sought to attract other industries while not cultivating its largest employer.
It was interesting when I was running for governor, people kept saying You’ve gotta diversify your state. Auto’s in trouble. Manufacturing’s in trouble. What are you going to do now. What new industries are you bringing to Michigan.’ That was backwards, folks. I’m proud to say we’re the auto capitol.”